Chinese History Essay


Please choose one of the following philosophers of early China, characterize his teachings, and contextualise his thoughts in regard to the history of the ‘Spring and Autumn’ and ‘Warring States’ periods: Confucius (Kongzi). Mozi, Laozi, Mencius ( Mengzi), Xunzi, Han Feizi, Zhuangzi.

Points that you can address in your essay are: What is known about this philosopher’s life? What sources exist that document his biography and teachings, and what characteristics do these sources have? What are the problems to which this philosopher responded? Was he involved in any intellectual disputes or conflicts? How did he respond to the historical situation of his time? Was he influential as a teacher and thinker?

For general and bibliographic information on works from this period see Loewe, Michael, ed. Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide. Berkeley: The Society for the Study of Early China (Institute of East Asian Studies), University of California, 1993.

For overviews of ancient philosophy see the chapter by David Nivison in the Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilisation to 221 BC. ed. Loewe, Michael and Edward L. Shaunessy, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999; Graham, Angus, Disputer of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China. LaSalle: Open Court, 1989; Schwartz, Benjamin, The World of Thought in Ancient China. Cambridge MA.: Belknap Press, 1985.

For your essay please check the relevant entry in Loewe’s Early Chinese Texts, consult one of the general surveys and locate and use a translation of the work you want to discuss.


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